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Vivienne Westwood SS17 Menswear
Backstage at Vivienne Westwood SS17 MenswearPhotography Virginia Arcaro

Why Westwood dedicated her SS17 show to Julian Assange

The godmother of punk debuts her new line, and makes a plea for the WikiLeaks founder’s release

Vivienne Westwood is known for tackling political issues head-on – and she often does so through the medium of the catwalk. Yesterday’s runway show at Milan Fashion Week – which saw the unveiling of her SS17 menswear collection – was a prime example of this. The event marked the start of the Julian Assange’s fifth year of unlawful confinement in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy and the designer made it clear what she thought about the matter.

“In February 2016 the United Nations ruled that Julian Assange’s detention is unlawful,” stated the show notes. “The UN ordered Sweden and the UK to immediately release him and compensate him for violating his rights.” The show itself opened with a video in which Westwood made a plea for the WikiLeaks founder’s release, asserting that he hadn’t done anything wrong. 

What followed was a collection of unisex clothing, worn by men and women: loose-fitting suits and tight-fitting knit dresses, toga and tunic-style garments, and knitted tops that were either sheer or cropped far above the belly button. Colours were muddy and proportions were askew, in a way that we’ve come to expect from the designer.

As ever, Westwood’s politics were imbued into the very fabric of these clothes, many of which were emblazoned with the graphic “IoU”, which apparently stands for “Intellectuals Unite” – her call for the intellectual class to “use their talents to cut through the false narratives of the political class, and lead the way, with their privileged positions in society, to mass demonstrations that demand a fast transition to clean energy.”

Punk may be celebrating it’s 40th anniversary, but it’s clear that Westwood’s anti-establishment sentiment is as potent as it’s ever been.